Seven steps for creating an environmentally friendly work place

Do you recognise how important it is to care for the environment? Whether you are an employee or a business owner, making sure environmentally sustainable practices are in place should be a high priority. Here are some key steps for making an office more environmentally friendly.

1) Think before you use – reduce

Take a look at your office paper usage – everyone knows to print double-sided and use recycled paper, but take it a step further. Do you need to print at all? With electronic signatures, electronic forms, and online file-sharing, you can significantly reduce your paper waste. Try an online filing system where you can save all your information and without having to use paper. There are many more ways to reduce paper usage in the office. The easiest way to reduce paper is to look at what you are printing and ask yourself, why? As with anything, once you start to look, you'll find lots of things you can change to save time and money … and paper.

2) Think before you buy – reuse

Whenever you are purchasing a new product, try and consider if you can reuse not only the product but its packaging. Takeaway containers and bottled water are prime examples. Less than 40 per cent of water bottles are recycled, the rest ends up in landfill or in our waterways.

3) Recycle, recycle, recycle

Recycling is the golden rule of waste management, so take a good look at what you are recycling in the office. You probably have the standard red, yellow and blue bins for general waste, recycling and paper. What about fluorescent lights, batteries, toner and mobile phones? Are your computers being disposed of by an accredited e-waste recycler or are they ending up on a beach in Cambodia?

A lot of councils do more segregation at the landfill now, so they would be a first point of call, but your standard waste disposers can be useful too. Planet Ark is also a great resource with advice on how you can improve your recycling across the board.

4) Little things make a big difference

Take a step further – what do you have in the kitchenette or café? Have you banned polystyrene cups? They are an environmental hazard and last forever in landfill. Are you supplying or serving fair trade or Rainforest Alliance teas and coffees? These are small things that can make a significant difference.

5) Go potty with plants

Air quality is another issue, yet it can be hard to determine without complex tests. Air conditioning systems can spread germs, and hazardous vapours known as volatile organic compounds (VOC) from paint and furniture. Using low VOC paints is one way to reduce smells and odours. Making sure your air-conditioning filters are being cleaned regularly is another. As a final check, place hardy, low-care office plants around the office to help purify the air.

6) Look beyond the office partition

Think about your wider workplace. There are lots of ways to make the world a better place; from setting efficiency standards for everything you buy, to adding environmental clauses in contracts, or installing solar panels. Plus, you can probably save money along the way.

7) Educate yourself

Creating a sustainable environment, which includes implementing environmentally friendly initiatives at your workplace, requires subject-specific knowledge and skills. You can gain those skills by doing TAFE NSW's new course: Certificate IV in Environmental Management and Sustainability. The course is offered on a part-time basis over 18 weeks and starts on 2 May 2017. It is also subsidised by the government under the Smart and Skilled scheme. To enrol or learn more about the course, visit the TAFE NSW course page or call 131 674.